TN Plant Looks to Process Foreign Nuclear Waste

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 @ 06:12 PM gHale

Italy or other countries could soon import their radioactive waste into a Tennessee plant for burning and then transport the ash back to the country of origin.
Energy Solutions, wants to bring 20,000 tons of waste from an old Italian nuclear plant to Oak Ridge, Tenn., and has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow German radioactive refuse to ship over here.
The company will take foreign waste only if the country it’s shipped from takes back the ashes or whatever remains after processing, Energy Solutions spokesman Mark Walker said.
EnergySolutions has asked the NRC for a permit to burn 1000 tons of German refuse at its Oak Ridge facility.
“There’ll be waste from universities, hospitals, medical facilities, that will be shipped over, if we receive a permit from the NRC to burn it in the incinerator and then return the ash to Germany,” Walker said.
The company owns a landfill in Clive, Utah. But they will not be able to ship any of the waste there after a U.S. District Court of Appeals ruling prohibiting any of it from going to the Utah landfill.
Whether the Italian waste would come to Tennessee is still up in the air, Walker said.
“The Italian government’s got to determine what they want to do: if they want to send it over as a volume reducer or they just want to keep it where it’s stored right now,” he said.
EnergySolutions is a privately traded, Salt Lake City-based company with $1.5 billion to $2 billion in revenues a year. It does work for the U.S. Department of Energy, Tennessee Valley Authority and others, including operating two nuclear plants for the United Kingdom. It’s also assisting in processing wastes from U.K. nuclear plants in the process of shutting down.
Its facilities in Oak Ridge include a compactor and an incinerator.
Among materials it processes are relatively low-level nuclear waste, including workers’ protective clothing, walls, desks and other equipment from old nuclear plants, as opposed to the highly contaminated used fuel rods from nuclear reactors.
The waste can reduce down by a ratio of 200 to 1, Walker said.
Foreign wastes are nothing new at the facility, he said, adding that radioactive material from Canada has come in, been treated, and the remainder returned.
The company’s new business model includes exploring ways to help countries manage their nuclear wastes within their own borders, he said.

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